SUMMIT COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – With the threat of more snow combined with what has already accumulated, Colorado Department of Transportation crews have been busier than ever monitoring avalanche paths in the high country.
Much of the high country is currently at considerable risk for a slide. CDOT actively monitors 278 avalanche paths, and while more work was done Wednesday, the crews have been very busy over the past few weeks.
“It’s life safety that we’re trying to help here,” Tom Hurst with the CDOT Avalanche Mitigation Team said.
Hurst’s crew was performing mitigation at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, an unusually late time to blast snow.
“We try and stay right on top of it,” he said.
Normally they’re ready to go at dawn to make sure Colorado’s highways are safe.
“We would rather keep the road open with small avalanches and not make a big splash on the news, as it were,” Hurst said. “If we can keep it down and under control, that’s by far what we want to do.”
The snow has piled up so deep in many avalanche paths that with a break in the weather on Tuesday, four crews headed out to clear the snow around Clear Creek County alone.
“I think we’ve had more come down, and as spectacular, than the last couple years,” Hurst said.
The “Avalauncher,” which launches explosives, isn’t capable of hitting some paths. So a helicopter dropped explosives that set off a massive slide near Arapahoe Basin onto Highway 6. It ripped trees down and covered the road for several hours on Tuesday, cutting off access to the ski resort for most of the morning.
“We’d rather not have that happen because it affects the public, it affects A-Basin; they weren’t able to get people in and out of there.”
But it shows how much snow is in the high country,
“There’s a significant danger hanging above you.”
And what a threat it is to the roads.
“As long as the winter is here and it’s snowing we’re going to be concerned and we’re going to continue mitigation efforts.”
The avalanche mitigation crews are hoping to have a break. They’ve been arriving to work at 4 a.m. nearly every day for the past few weeks. Depending on how much snow falls Wednesday night, they may be right back at it Thursday morning.